State testing plays a prominent role in the evaluation of schools, teachers, and students. If you teach at a tested grade level, you might ask yourself, How do I best prepare my students for this test?
You might feel the pressure of time as you assess which standards students know well, which standards they may struggle with, and which standards have not yet been taught. It can be tempting to drop everything and review tested material in the weeks leading up to the test. This often involves revisiting content previously learned while also attempting to quickly teach any content not yet covered. But does rushed, surface-level coverage of content really help students on the state test? Probably not.
Depth of understanding beats coverage.
Let me tell you about my daughter’s basketball practice. The girls did drills focused on building leg strength while moving from one end of the gym to the other. I watched my competitive daughter speed through the drills without completing the full range of motion. Her only goal was to get to the other side of the gym first. Her coach pulled her aside and explained that if she slowed down and really focused on the movement, she would do more to build strength in her legs. One well-executed movement served her better than flying through the drills to get to the finish line.
This same idea applies in math class. If you must choose between deeper instruction on only a portion of the content or lightly covering all the content, choose depth every time. This deeper instruction helps students develop the solid knowledge that will serve them better on state tests. After all, if you’ve covered everything, but students’ understanding of the content is shaky, they may not even remember some content at test time. But students remember those skills they learn well.
Eureka Math® puts the major work of the grade first.
When you choose depth over coverage, you want to have confidence that you’re spending your time teaching the most important concepts. Eureka Math places the major work of the grade in the earliest modules. Therefore, if you can’t get to everything, you at least know that you have covered the most important material. In many grades, supporting or additional standards also appear in the first couple of modules to bolster the major work of the grade. It is best to teach the modules in the order they are presented and avoid shifting the order of the modules. Trust the purposeful design of the Eureka Math curriculum.
Problem solvers can find answers to unfamiliar questions.
Eureka Math facilitates a problem-solving mindset. Problem solvers can find answers to unfamiliar questions by applying mathematical knowledge and their skill with mathematical models to make sense of problems. These students can also draw on their ability to select an appropriate strategy to confidently try new things. On tests, this means your students will use familiar models like tape diagrams and strategies such as the Read–Draw–Write process to solve unfamiliar problems. They’ll answer the problems you have covered deeply in class and even some you haven’t!
The best test prep is good instruction.
My students used to ask me to review before every assessment. To me, that was lost instructional time. After all, if I could teach everything students needed to know in that compressed time, I would have done so in the first place. The best form of test prep is good instruction every day, not quick review or cram sessions. Teach one lesson per day, keep the modules in their intended order, and facilitate rich mathematical discussions to help students make sense of what they learn. Don’t give up your precious instructional time. Make your daily lesson your primary form of test preparation. Know that this approach is an instructional decision that best supports student performance.
Heather Curry is a Eureka Math in Sync Virtual Teacher. She is a former math coach from Yelm Community Schools in Washington state.
Topics: Implementation Support